UMBC Imaging Research Center (IRC)

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For 25 years, the IRC has taken an entrepreneurial approach to leveraging new technologies and emerging media platforms to create meaningful connections between knowledge and people. State-of-the-art facilities enable research in 3D visualization, immersive technologies, interactive installations, feature-length films, social media, and mobile device applications. The center is also an educational facility where faculty and undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students engage in real-world, project-oriented, creative and collaborative research to complement learning in the classroom and prepare students for further learning and life after the university. The IRC continues to imagine new directions of interdisciplinary research in combination with technologically advanced media that communicates to and resonates with the general public. You may not have heard of us, but you have probably seen our work.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 14 of 14
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    Open to Interpretation
    (UMBC Magazine, 2023-06-08) O'Grady, Jenny
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    A Comparative Analysis of VR-Based and Real-World Human-Robot Collaboration for Small-Scale Joining
    (IEEE, 2023-05-01) Higgins, Padraig; Barron, Ryan; Engel, Don; Matuszek, Cynthia
    While VR as an interface for the teleoperation of robots has been well-studied in recent years, VR can also be used to advance our understanding of in-person human-robot interaction (HRI) by sim-ulating such interactions more repeatably and affordably than real-world studies. A few platforms now exist for studying human-robot interaction in VR, but little of this work has involved the study of the realism of specific, typical in-person HRI tasks. To evaluate this realism, we conduct a user study consisting of a collaborative assembly task where a robot and human work together to build a simple electrical circuit. We present a comparison of the task performed in the real world versus with virtual robot in VR. We discuss difficulties encountered and draw conclusions about what characteristics a virtual environment should have in order to support physical human-robot interactions.
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    Using Moffat Profiles to Register Astronomical Images
    (Springer, 2023-02-15) Schuckman, Mason; Prouty, Roy; Chapman, David; Engel, Don
    The accurate registration of astronomical images without a world coordinate system or authoritative catalog is useful for visually enhancing the spatial resolution of multiple images containing the same target. Increasing the resolution of images through super-resolution (SR) techniques can improve the performance of commodity optical hardware, allowing more science to be done with cheaper equipment. Many SR techniques rely on the accurate registration of input images, which is why this work is focused on accurate star finding and registration. In this work, synthetic star field frames are used to explore techniques involving star detection, matching, and transform-fitting. Using Moffat stellar profiles for stars, non-maximal suppression for control-point finding, and gradient descent for point finding optimization, we are able to obtain more accurate transformation parameters than that provided other modern algorithms, e.g., AstroAlign. To validate that we do not over-fit our method to our synthetic images, we use real telescope images and attempt to recover the transformation parameters.
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    Integration of Reinforcement Learning and Unreal Engine for Enemy Containment via Autonomous Swarms
    (AIAA, 2023-01-19) Peterson, David; Andrades, Beyonce; Lizarazu-Ampuero, Kevin; Deshmukh, Jai; Stapor, Thomas; Destaffan, Will; Engel, Don; Krometis, Justin; Kauffman, Justin A.
    Maritime remote sensing (MRS) is a multi-disciplinary and multi-physics field at the intersection of naval hydrodynamics, physical oceanography, overhead platforms, and electro-optical sensors. One proposed improvement to MRS information gathering and operations is the use of swarms of autonomous surface, aerial, and/or undersea vehicles as a multi-agent system (MAS) to automate data collection, data processing, and situational awareness. Here, we explore the design of an autonomous multi-agent system with the objective of containing a target object, i.e., surrounding the object in a loosely defined shape. The agents make decisions using reinforcement learning by way of a Markov decision process. Our current proof-of-concepts are modeled using Python-based 2D simulation environments which contain our agents and target used for prototyping and testing various reward functions.. However, we have built an infrastructure to port the simulation environments to Unreal Engine 4 for increased fidelity. In the current modeled scenario, each agent's decisions are based on global positional knowledge of each entity in the environment. Future iterations are planned to feature agent decision making based on a high-fidelity communication protocol and inputs from integrated sensors.
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    Drones, Phones, and Stones: Initial Testing of a Role-Based, Computer-Supported Approach to Collaborative Cemetery Indexing
    (ACM, 2023-01-08) Rubinstein, Jacob; Engel, Don
    After project organizers used a drone to create a high-resolution aerial map of a historic cemetery, sets of volunteers served in four distinct, interdependent roles to photograph, research, restore, and geospatially index the cemetery’s many unrecorded interments. Here, we share observations from our initial tests of this approach, which included a visit of volunteers for synchronous on-site work. We explore the differences in volunteer behavior and performance relative to organizer expectations and how the interdependence of the four roles is impacted by these differences.
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    Creating Knowledge with the Public: Disrupting the Expert/Audience Hierarchy
    (MIT Press, 2022-08-22) Meringolo, Denise D.; Boot, Lee; Johnson, Denise Griffin; O’Neill, Maureen
    This essay provides both a philosophy and a case study to define, analyze, and explore community-centered public history practice. In its ideal form, communitycentered public history practice strives for equity and inclusion. It is service-oriented. It is often future-focused. On the ground, in real time, community-centered public history practice requires constant recalibration, humility, and active collaboration that can be challenging for academically trained scholars to fully embrace. The coauthors share their experiences and impressions in order to highlight both the difficulty and the value of this work.
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    Extending CoNavigator into a Collaborative Digital Space
    (ACM, 2020-01-06) Murnane, Mark; Engel, Don; Freeland, Stephen; Boot, Lee; Jarzynski, Mark; Lindvig, Katrine; Hillersdal, Line; Earle, David
    We present an extension of the existing CoNavigator collaboration system that allows for persistence of in-person collaboration sessions through a digitally projected overlay and camera system. This augmented reality environment allows participants in a CoNavigator session to resume from a previous session without having to laboriously recreate the physical state of the space manually. By combining features traditionally found only in digital space with the intuitive nature of a tactile physical environment, we hope to produce a tool that builds on the work of CoNavigator and lowers barriers to adoption while increasing efficacy.
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    User Interactions in Virtual Data Explorer
    (Springer, 2022-06-16) Kullman, Kaur; Engel, Don
    Cybersecurity practitioners face the challenge of monitoring complex and large datasets. These could be visualized as time-varying node-link graphs, but would still have complex topologies and very high rates of change in the attributes of their links (representing network activity). It is natural, then, that the needs of the cybersecurity domain have driven many innovations in 2D visualization and related computer-assisted decision making. Here, we discuss the lessons learned while implementing user interactions for Virtual Data Explorer (VDE), a novel system for immersive visualization (both in Mixed and Virtual Reality) of complex time-varying graphs. VDE can be used with any dataset to render its topological layout and overlay that with time-varying graph; VDE was inspired by the needs of cybersecurity professionals engaged in computer network defense (CND). Immersive data visualization using VDE enables intuitive semantic zooming, where the semantic zoom levels are determined by the spatial position of the headset, the spatial position of handheld controllers, and user interactions (UIa) with those controllers. This spatially driven semantic zooming is quite different from most other network visualizations which have been attempted with time-varying graphs of the sort needed for CND, presenting a broad design space to be evaluated for overall user experience (UX) optimization. In this paper, we discuss these design choices, as informed by CND experts, with a particular focus on network topology abstraction with graph visualization, semantic zooming on increasing levels of network detail, and semantic zooming to show increasing levels of detail with textual labels.
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    Mental Model Mapping Method for Cybersecurity
    (Springer Nature, 2020-07-10) Kullman, Kaur; Buchanan, Laurin; Komlodi, Anita; Engel, Don
    Visualizations can enhance the efficiency of Cyber Defense Analysts, Cyber Defense Incident Responders and Network Operations Specialists (Subject Matter Experts, SME) by providing contextual information for various cybersecurity-related datasets and data sources. We propose that customized, stereoscopic 3D visualizations, aligned with SMEs internalized representations of their data, may enhance their capability to understand the state of their systems in ways that flat displays with either text, 2D or 3D visualizations cannot afford. For these visualizations to be useful and efficient, we need to align these to SMEs internalized understanding of their data. In this paper we propose a method for interviewing SMEs to extract their implicit and explicit understanding of the data that they work with, to create useful, interactive, stereoscopically perceivable visualizations that would assist them with their tasks.
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    Black Power in Washington, D.C., 1961-1998
    Musgrove, George Derek; Tolosa, Kirubel; Boot, Lee; Black Power organization; United Planning Organization
    In late 1967, Stokely Carmichael, the nation’s foremost Black Power advocate, surveyed the landscape of U.S. politics looking for a place where concerted black organizing could have its deepest impact. He chose Washington, D.C.
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    Hash Functions for GPU Rendering
    (Journal of Computer Graphics Techniques (JCGT)) Jarzynski, Mark; Olano, Marc
    In many graphics applications, a deterministic random hash provides the best source of random numbers. We evaluate a range of existing hash functions for random number quality using the TestU01 test suite, and GPU execution speed through benchmarking. We analyze the hash functions on the Pareto frontier to make recommendations on which hash functions offer the best quality/speed trade-off for the range of needs, from high-performance/low-quality to high-quality/low-performance. We also present a new class of hash tuned for multidimensional input and output that performs well at the high-quality end of this spectrum. We provide a supplemental document with test results and code for all hashes.
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    NONUMENT01::McKeldin Fountain
    (ACMSIGGRAPH, 2018) Moren, Lisa; Tomsic, Neja; Baraga, Martin; Mayhew, Jaimes
    “NONUMENT 01:: McKeldin Fountain” is Baltimore’s virtual monument located in the Inner Harbor and free speech zone. In opposition to bronze and stone, the nonument or “no monument” recreates the destroyed Brutalist-style monument the City of Baltimore and private partners tore down in January 2017. installs new and emerging media forms in order to capture the transitory significance of everyday experiences. We seek to honor hidden urban spaces that carry symbolic value for ordinary people. By using this app, anyone can put back the fountain and experience first-hand memories from ordinary activities, art events and protests, including uprisings following the death of Freddie Gray, Peace Vigils, LGBTQ issues and Occupy Baltimore. When viewers hold up a mobile device like a protest sign, the participant will put back the fountain with 18 animated waterfalls including an infamous double waterfall. Viewers will see and hear documented interviews that includes a diversity of Baltimore voices from a former Mayor and ACLU lawyer to rappers, teachers and protestors, including the Women In Black who stood for peace at the site every Friday since December 2001. “Whisper Chambers” inside the fountain offer underrepresented voices in Baltimore City that are often unheard but significant to the vibrant life of any urban environment. The story of McKeldin Fountain is part of the escalating privatization of public spaces worldwide, a trend that continues to diminish access to full participation and free speech for ordinary people in everyday urban life. This socially engaged intervention is an ambitious take on the latest AR technology in order to address the politics of reclaiming public space including: how public behavior is controlled by a variety of mechanisms? and, who has more exclusive access to what spaces? This augmented reality public art project is free to download to your phone.
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    Visualizing Early Baltimore
    (2016) Bailey, Dan; Kummerow, Burt; Peters, Tamara; Zuber, Ryan; Previtt, Lindsay; Cole, Joshua; Jarzynski, Mark; Squire, Shawn; Jeresano, Christina; Vikhlyayeva, Ganna; Schenning, Kristen; Harner, Debbie; Hayward, Mary Ellen; Humphries, Lance
    September 13, 2014, marks the 200th anniversary of the major British attack on Baltimore. What was so important about Baltimore two hundred years ago? Over a few decades in the early nineteenth century, Baltimore's population exploded, and it grew from a small town to the third largest city in the young United States. What was the draw? After the British set fire to the city of Washington in 1814, they set their sights on Baltimore, which they considered a particular thorn in their side. Why? The bicentennial of Maryland's role in the War of 1812 has provided a catalyst for asking these historical questions as well as an opportunity for the IRC to use the experience gained from our Visualizing Early Washington, DC project to work on developing an accurate map and 3D depiction of the Baltimore cityscape circa 1815, shortly after the famous bombing of Fort McHenry that inspired the words of the U.S. National Anthem. With fundamental support from the Maryland Historical Society and its network of historical scholars, the IRC has been able to collect the data necessary to initiate the visualization. The research effort received major support from the Maryland Division of Tourism 1812 Bicentennial Commission, and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and is currently on display at the Maryland Historical Society. The IRC has spent two years researching how Baltimore would have looked circa 1815. Working with UMBC's Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE), the IRC created an accurate topography on which to build the city. It consulted local historical scholars and scoured documents relating to specific buildings to determine which structures existed back then and how they would have appeared. With that information, a team of IRC artists modeled and textured the buildings, wharves, and other structures that defined Baltimore during the economic and population boom that accompanied the height of the harbor's role in commerce, privateering, and shipbuilding. The result is a huge gigapixel image of a bird's eye view of early Baltimore. IRC computer programmers have made this scene navigable by touchscreen to zoom into the vast details of the city. Certain hotspots, such as the home of Mary Pickersgill, the seamstress who sewed the famous 'Star Spangled Banner' for Fort McHenry, or the observatory atop of Federal Hill signaling which merchant ships were headed to dock, can be located by tapping thumbnails, and additional information and visuals provided by the Maryland Historical Society can be found by accessing pop-up windows. This project, known as BEARINGS (Bird's Eye Annotated Representational Image/Navigable Gigapixel Scene) of Baltimore, Circa 1815, is now on display at the Maryland Historical Society and available as an online tour.